It was a Saturday night in Roncesvalles. Not many would expect to find themselves in a laundromat. Yet, many were there at the Banner Coin Laundromat on Dundas Street West. They weren’t there to wash their clothes. Instead, this eclectic group of art lovers posted up on washers and the wall of dryers. The hot and sweaty space tested the audience’s endurance. It held up. Everyone stayed for one purpose: to hear poetry.Just like clothes sticking to bodies, the venue made for a unique experience that connected the audience to one another. The poets of the night, Lydia Pawlowsky, Vincent Pagé, and Vincent Calistro, decided that tonight was the night they would air their dirty laundry. As they each bared their souls, their words became intimate confessions of love, moments of laughter. Sitting there, fanning myself with my own notebook, I began to think how love, laughter, and a need to do laundry are things we all share. A collective love of poetry may have brought us to the laundromat, but a deep need to air out our own dirty laundry is what we left with.The Dirty Laundry Poetry Series is the brainchild of University of Toronto student Zak Jones. I sat down with him to see what inspired him to start the series. The next Dirty Laundry Poetry event will take place at the end of this month.
The Varsity: What inspires you about a laundromat?Zak Jones: I was in the U.S. army. And we had a laundry room, which is almost identical to something that looks exactly as this. And I spent so many hours, ‘cause you always have to have clean uniforms. Clean bed sheets, clean everything, all the time. Which is almost impossible, ‘cause you’re always fucking dirty. And that’s when I would do most of my writing. And this particular event, I was actually doing a reading at the Belljar Cafe and jokingly into the microphone, I said “Hey, catch me at the laundromat next door after for the secret reading.” And people were coming up to me after like, “Are you really doing a reading at the laundromat?” and I was like, “Dude, I should!”
TV: You said you wanted a lot of artists who just really love poetry to come here to showcase their work.ZJ: It’s not about the place that they want to come to. I want them to come to me or for themselves, to open up their eyes to this type of venue that’s not a venue, where it shouldn’t be… and I don’t know how deep you are into the Toronto poetry culture, but it’s always at The Central or something like that… They have to read over coffee being made, and people drinking beer, people talking; people are just there to be there kind of thing, and I wanted to eliminate that part of it and make it more egalitarian. So whether you are a poet or an artist yourself, or someone who hopes to appreciate it and doesn’t necessarily, you haven’t dipped your toes into the political asinine horseshit that is poetry in Toronto right now. Then there is no problem for you to come. You know?
TV: Yeah, totally.ZJ: So that’s what I want… And then for, you know, artists themselves, I want them to look deep into their soul and say, “Do I want to be a poet or do I want to tell people I’m a poet?” And then this is the difference. So just reading in general regardless of where you are and just expressing the fruits of your given labour at any given time should be what qualifies you as a poet. People who write on their Tumblr, not necessarily. I think it needs to be shared. It should be a shared visceral human experience. And there is nothing more human or equal than clean clothes. Even dirty people go in there. You know? I don’t know if you’ve seen it, but it happens.